Buttressed by the campaign overtures of a new president and Democratic Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff introduced a bipartisan resolution this week calling on the U.S. to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.
A similar resolution failed in the House two years ago after then-President George W. Bush argued it would strain crucial U.S.-Turkey military ties at a time when the Iraq War was raging.
The State Department has never officially recognized the roughly 1.5 million Armenian deaths at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 as genocide, despite the resolutions of scholars, the European Parliament, 20 national governments and 42 state governments.
Turkey has always maintained that the killings were the result of multiple factors during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and not the systematic massacre alleged by Armenians the world over.
Proponents of the U.S. resolution this time said the early positions taken by President Barack Obama as a candidate in support of acknowledging the genocide put the latest drive in a much better position to withstand the Turkish lobby in Washington.
Since Schiff introduced the resolution, the network of Armenian political action groups have mobilized their members to lobby Congressional representatives in support of the measure.
They are doing so with a keen eye to Obama’s planned trip to Turkey next month, during which supporters said they hoped the president would prepare his Turkish counterparts for a positive position.
“I think the nod from Obama would do a great deal to catapult it forward,” said Zanku Armenian, a board member for the Armenian National Committee Glendale Chapter.
In anticipation of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, Schiff and three other Congressional representatives sent a letter to Obama, calling on him to make good on his “clear and unequivocal” record of supporting the formal acknowledgment.
In 2006, after the Bush Administration recalled U.S. Ambassador to Yerevan John Evans for calling the 1915 massacre genocide, Obama sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arguing that “the occurrence of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 is not an ‘allegation,’ a ‘personal opinion’ or a ‘point of view.’”
Schiff agreed that this time around, a statement of support from Obama early in the process could increase the chances of the resolution making it through Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007 was set to bring the resolution up for a full vote before 24 of its 235 backers withdrew support following Bush’s lobby. With support for the resolution weakened, Schiff and his co-sponsors requested that it be tabled until political conditions improved.
Similar resolutions failed to even get that far after passing the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2000 and 2005, and supporters did not want to risk a no vote.
“I think [Obama] will really be the game-changing dynamic,” Schiff said.
To be sure, the same battle will likely materialize on Capitol Hill, but Schiff said he expected the argument for protecting ties with Turkey to be less of an issue given Obama’s greater popularity abroad.
Still, the Armenian community has seen its hopes dashed before, and so at this point, “there is an air of cautious optimism,” Armenian said.
Financial state sparks endorsements
The California School Employees Assn., Chapter 3, has endorsed Glendale Unified School District Board of Education incumbents Greg Krikorian, Chuck Sambar and Joylene Wagner, the organization announced last week.
This is the first time the group, which represents all of the more than 1,100 clerks, secretaries, custodians, painters and other non-instructional staff in the district, has endorsed candidates for political office, President Richard Carroll said.
The association broke from its history of political inaction because of the state’s unprecedented financial crisis and its effects on the district’s budget, Carroll said.
Representatives from the organization made their decision after interviewing only the incumbents because experience was the greatest concern among employees hoping for strong leadership during the recession, he said.
The non-teaching employees have been most strained in recent years as officials have opted not to refill vacated positions, gradually cutting costs related to maintenance and administration while keeping reductions away from the classroom environment, Carroll said.
The organization valued that approach, as opposed to outright layoffs, and hoped that incumbents’ knowledge of already lean school staffs would prevent them from extensively trimming positions, he said.
Krekorian moves office to district heart
Assemblyman Paul Krekorian relocated his office this week from Glendale’s Brand Boulevard to downtown Burbank.
The move to 300 E. Magnolia Blvd. was meant to position the office closer to the center of the 43rd Assembly District, which includes Glendale, Burbank and the Los Angeles communities of Atwater Village, Los Feliz, North Hollywood, Silver Lake, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village and Van Nuys, Krekorian said in a statement.
“Geographically, this made a lot of sense,” he said.
Krekorian will hold an open house at the new office from 4 to 7 p.m. April 2.
Rep. Dreier wants bailout bonus answers
Republican Rep. David Dreier cosponsored a resolution this week calling for the Treasury Department to provide Congress with information related to the millions in bonuses paid to employees from American International Group, which has received billions in government aid.
Dreier is urging the House of Representatives to immediately consider the resolution, which would ask the Treasury Department to detail the conditions of the contracts that made the bonuses possible, according to a news release.
“For months now, we have been seeking transparency and accountability for the American people on where these bailout funds were being spent,” Dreier said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we have just gotten more questions than answers. My colleagues and I will continue to demand the administration come forward with answers for the American people, and that real oversight measures be put into place.”
— Jason Wells and Zain Shauk